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Local Newspapers Trying To Survive 'Big Asteroid Hit' Of Coronavirus

Newtown Bee local newspaper
Chion Wolf
Connecticut Public Radio
The Newtown Bee is almost 143 years old and that's how long publishers of the newspaper have printed and distributed a weekly newspaper. But, due to concerns amid an ongoing pandemic, the weekly Newtown Bee is temporarily suspended.

The publisher of the long-running Newtown Bee has announced the suspension of the weekly print newspaper, making it the latest casualty of the economic uncertainty surrounding coronavirus.

The Newtown Bee won’t be printed and distributed until further notice, which breaks a tradition that stretches back to 1877. 

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To Rich Hanley, an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University, smaller daily and weekly publications like the Bee represent the wing of the media industry most vulnerable to the virus’ grip on the economy.
“We don’t know if these news organizations are going to be back because of it,” Hanley said. Hanley said print advertising is evaporating during the pandemic, exacerbating a trend toward online ads.

“This is the big asteroid hitting,” Hanley said. “This is the asteroid that’s going to be, as many have described it, the extinction event for many local newspapers because we don’t know when its advertising is coming back.”

The editor and publisher of the Bee told Connecticut Public Radio in an email sent Monday that while printing is on pause for the safety of the staff, they’ll try to keep their audience informed on local news via their website.

“The novel coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge, and The Newtown Bee is working to respect the “Stay Safe -Stay Home” directive of Gov Ned Lamont, while ensuring that our residents still have access to the news they need and trust,” read the email signed by publisher R. Scudder Smith and editor Nancy K. Crevier.

“We look forward to the return of our broadsheet print edition as soon as it is deemed safe for Connecticut residents to resume usual activities,” Crevier said.

Hanley said COVID-19 could push some newspaper companies to go fully digital—or shutdown altogether, creating the potential for “news deserts.”

“That is an area of once-circulating newspapers that no longer circulate leaving the people in these communities without an objective, balanced source of information,” Hanley said.

The weekly Rivereast Bulletin that comes out of Glastonbury also announced an indefinite suspension of print recently. Because more people are working from home now, the Hartford Business Journal is discontinuing its print service temporarily. Finally, for the time being, the Lakeville Journal will “cut back” printing to mitigate COVID-19 exposure to the people who deliver the paper.

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